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Includes pictures Includes accounts of the frontier towns written by people who lived there Profiles famous Westerners like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill, and more Includes online resources and bibliographies for further reading Includes a table of contents The Wild West has made legends out of many men, but it has forged a lasting legacy for the city of Tombstone, Arizona, a Includes pictures Includes accounts of the frontier towns written by people who lived there Profiles famous Westerners like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill, and more Includes online resources and bibliographies for further reading Includes a table of contents The Wild West has made legends out of many men, but it has forged a lasting legacy for the city of Tombstone, Arizona, a frontier boomtown that has come to symbolize everything about the Old West. In many ways, Tombstone fit all the stereotypes associated with that era in American history. A dusty place on the outskirts of civilization, Tombstone brought together miners, cowboys, lawmen, saloons, gambling, brothels, and everything in between, creating an environment that was always colorful and occasionally fatal.
Those characteristics might not have distinguished Tombstone from other frontier outposts like Deadwood in the Dakotas, but some of the most famous legends of the West called Tombstone home for many years, most notably the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. And ultimately, the relationships and rivalries forged by those men in Tombstone culminated in the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881.
The West's most famous fight all but ensured that Tombstone would be the epicenter of Western lore, and as the city's population dwindled at the end of the 19th century, the allure of Tombstone as a tourist center took hold. Nearly half a million tourists flock to Tombstone each year, where they find a city that has cashed in on its legacy through careful preservation. Many of the historic buildings in Tombstone haven't changed much in the last 130 years, and visitors who come to the O.K.
Corral or Boothill Cemetery can get an idea of what Tombstone was like in 1881. In 1874, General George Armstrong Custer led a troop over of 1,000 men to investigate reports of the discovery of gold on Lakota-Sioux land in the Black Hills. Sioux ownership of the land stemmed from the Treaty of Laramie in 1868, but the discovery of gold changed things for the United States.
The mining town of Deadwood quickly sprung up as prospectors descended on the area, even though the federal government had ordered military troops to set up posts there to keep prospectors out. Men like Al Swearengen and Charlie Utter came to make fortunes one way or another, Calamity Jane amused and irritated the townspeople in equal measure, and the legendary Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed in one of Deadwood's saloons while holding the "Dead Man's Hand" by "the coward McCall". Wild Bill's death helped ensure Deadwood would be remembered as an important part of Western lore, but in many ways the Deadwood craze was over almost before it began.
During the 19th century, Deadwood's population reached its peak in the 1880s with a population of just less than 4,000, and fires, mining, and the closing of the frontier all made sure the population never grew. Today, barely 1,000 call Deadwood home, and it remains more an object of curiosity and tourism than anything else. Aside from Tombstone and Deadwood, no frontier town is better known than Dodge City, Kansas.
In the immediate wake of the Civil War, a settlement originally developed around Fort Dodge, which had been built to protect against Indian attacks, and it became a favorite spot for the buffalo hunters on the Plains who were engaged in exterminating the bison to harm the Native American tribes. By 1876, however, Dodge City had become a popular destination spot for cattle drives starting from as far south as Texas, earning itself the nickname "The Cowboy Capital of the World". With that, the town also came to symbolize everything about the Old West.
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